TOP FRUIT, OUR STORY

Mark Culley, Managing Director

Mark grew up on his mother and father’s family-run fruit farm in Colchester, Essex. Spending much of his spare time helping his parents out around their establishment, it became apparent at an early age that he was destined to work within the fresh produce sector.

THE EARLY YEARS

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However, seeing his parents struggle through the 80s within this challenging environment, he wanted to bring something slightly different to the table that would make a difference to them and other local farmers in the same position.

 

The UK industry had to change as it was struggling to compete with cheap imports. At the time, there was a very limited selection of varieties available in the UK, with Granny Smith and Golden Delicious being imported, and the red dessert and Cox homegrown in the UK.

Whilst the Cox was a popular variety supplying up to 70% of the UK Apple industry, the ongoing struggles incorporated very light yields and generally poor quality.

THE VISION

He combined his extensive experience, academic and agricultural studies at Hadlow College and developed the growing techniques to combat the challenges he was faced with. This is where he was able to make a difference to his father's livelihood. In 1989 Mark was invited to join Poupart Ltd, a marketing company who ran a group of English growers acting as a ‘go-between’ to the growers and major supermarkets.

Mark knew of the Royal Gala which was a variety predominantly grown in France and New Zealand and was aware that certain UK farms had tried growing very early strains. He and his father decided to spend their time and effort investing in growing this variety on their farm. A more coloured strain called Mondial Gala had now become available from the nurseries and as their experience grew the harvests kept on improving. This would be the winning variety which would help his father’s farm grow. It had huge potential: cropping a lot heaver, used fewer pesticides, was frost resistant and up to 90% of quality on each harvest which was a big improvement on Cox which is now only 16k ton as opposed to 120k ton 30 years ago.

 

The process took a long time to establish. With the correct orchard husbandry the first real yield would not be until 3 years in and it would not be until 5 years that full production would be accomplished. However, accomplished it was.

TODAY

Mark met Ian Hall a Buyer at the time for Sainsbury's. Jointly they realised the potential in the product. He teamed up with Mark to push this from the supermarket side, whilst Mark was able to encourage growers, including his father, to grow the OrchardWorld Royal Gala by reducing marketing costs and giving them incentives to grow it. New colour clones made for a more interesting variety.

The introduction of the PLU (price look up code) label was invaluable to the growth of this project meaning that more varieties could be added to the very small list. By the late 90s this product had a foothold and was sold in Sainsbury's. It wasn’t until 2005 that this really took off.

Today, Royal Gala is one of the top three bestselling varieties selling 60,000 tons 30 years later.

 

OrchardWorld is one of the UK's foremost specialist top fruit companies. We are working with some of the best producers and packers in the world, bringing the finest produce to our customers. Although we retain a particular strength in UK apples and pears, we are also at the cutting edge of world production, procuring fruit from all over Europe as well as the Southern Hemisphere.

OrchardWorld's staff have a wealth of experience built up over many years. We have a small and dedicated team within which the technical and commercial personnel work closely together to produce long term lasting benefits for everyone we work with.

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